For the past three weeks, I have been focusing on Botswana’s constitution and how it relates directly or indirectly to land management. There is a direct link because access to land is a fundamental human right issue. In 2007, the Botswana government constituted a Task Force to come up with a national vision. The product was the famous Vision 2016; which many Batswana can recite. I dedicate few articles on it showing how it relates to land management. We often hear government officials and some ruling party politicians citing this national manifesto. Vision 2016 calls for a transformation of Botswana into an “educated and informed”, “open, democratic and accountable” and “prosperous, productive and innovative” nation, amongst others. Sustainable resource management and utilisation are key to economic and political stability. Vision 2016 underscores this when it states: “The key natural resources and assets of the country will be equitably distributed between its people […] The attitude towards natural resources will pay attention to fair distribution of resources between present and future generations”.
It advocates for an intragenerational and intergenerational equity. That is to say; the current generation should not wildly and haphazardly utilise all resources without thinking about the future. As I shall show in the coming articles, this vision is far from being realised in Botswana. The current generation (mainly those tasked with key positions) abuse their positions and engage in wanton corruption; grabbing land from the poor and weak. This has relegated many to poverty and hopelessness. Commissions have shown rampant corruption over land allocation by those in high-ranking positions. With or without vision 2016, the misuse of ‘our’ resources by some continues, unabated. Sustainable development can be best achieved when citizens are actively encouraged to participate in the socio-economic and political development of their countries.
As I shall show with few articles, Batswana, though Vision 2016 is clear on many things, are not “informed or educated” about their land rights. The appointment of the land boards’ members by the Minister and the operation of the land boards, in general, remain controversial. “Openness, democracy and accountability” are lacking with regard to land management. It is then unrealistic to imagine that a country can be “prosperous, productive and innovative” when it still grapples with wanton corruption in its land management. There is ‘artificialised’ land shortage. Moreover, elitist land reforms have relegated the masses to the periphery. I often give examples of how well-executed land reforms in East Asia have led to economic and political stability. It is the prudent management of land (natural) resources that a country can clearly graduate its population from poverty. We often hear that Botswana is a success story. Fine! May be she is.
But do we see this success in the manner in which we allocate land? How many people are struggling to get residential plots in urban areas? How many people have had their arable lands repossessed? How many people are living illegally in squatter settlements? How many Batswana are educated and informed about their land rights? How many Batswana can relate Vision 2016 to land management? How many Batswana know that the success of Vision 2016 is directly linked to equitable resource distribution? Is it equitable when some people own 700 plots in Gaborone? Is it equitable when some people own 8,000 hectares each of ranches acquired under the Tribal Grazing Land Policy of 1975 and the National Policy of Agriculture Development of 1991? How many families have had their homes demolished by the ‘yellow monsters’ on the basis that they are squatters? Who is to blame when people occupy land illegally? How many of you have voted for politicians whilst living in the so-called squatter settlements? Is this the Vision we are talking about? I will examine these within the issues context of Vision 2016.